11 best Android smartphones running stock Android

by: David GonzalesJune 13, 2013


Not all Android smartphones are created equal. And yet most of the very best models that have ever come out have one common ingredient: the stock Android operating system. Indeed, many of today’s greatest Android phones have been made available with nothing more than the bare bones version of Google’s famed mobile OS. To some users, it’s like the secret sauce. And Google, along with today’s many different Android OEMs, is just all too glad to fulfill the demand.

We have put together a list of all the best Android smartphones running stock Android, with models coming from big name OEMs as well as some not-so-popular ones. If you can’t stand anything other than the stock version of Android on your phone and you’d like to see what kind of options you have, then this is the list that you are looking for. Read on to get started.

Nexus 4

LG Nexus 4
We’ve said it before, and we’ll gladly say it again: the LG Nexus 4 is one of the best Android smartphones ever due to the fact that it offers the latest and greatest software in a package that combines killer specs, a crisp and very pleasing display, and a familiar design aesthetic. The Nexus 4 is basically the result of putting together all the great features originally found in the Nexus phones that came before it, and making them all greater. It’s the culmination of Google’s Nexus efforts (so far) and truly deserves to be considered royalty among all Android handsets.

It isn’t without faults, though. You can’t add storage space to it via microSD cards, you can’t use it to listen to FM radio (unless you do it over the Internet), and it doesn’t support 4G LTE. Still, if timely system software updates matter much more to you, this is one of the best phones you can get.

Nexus 4 Specs

  • Display: 4.7-inch IPS+, HD (1280×720 pixels), 318 ppi
  • Camera: 8MP auto-focus camera with LED flash (1080p video recording)
  • SoC: 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro, Adreno 320 GPU
  • Memory: 8GB/16GB internal storage (no microSD support, 2GB RAM
  • OS: Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, upgradeable to Android 4.2.2
  • Battery: 2,100mAh battery (non-removable)

Samsung Galaxy S4 with Nexus user experience

GS4 Google Edition
The biggest difference between this and the original Samsung Galaxy S4 is the use of stock Android and Google-issued updates in the place of Samsung’s own TouchWiz UI and carrier updates. This major change got a lot of people’s attention, and for good reason. It’s practically a dream come true for those who enjoy top-notch hardware but can do without unneeded “bloat” often added by either carriers or the OEMs themselves.

So if it’s such a great phone, why isn’t everyone lining up to get it and Samsung still bothers to release new ones? Well, for one thing, it hasn’t been released yet. Also, it’s being sold at a premium over the standard one — $650 a piece. And that is what will likely keep a lot of people from buying it. That, and the earlier mentioned fact that it lacks TouchWiz. Yes, people that like it do still exist. And they enjoy their extra features just fine.

Galaxy S4 Google Edition Specs

  • Display: 5-inch Super AMOLED, Full HD (1920×1080 pixels), 441 ppi
  • Camera: 13MP auto-focus camera with LED flash (HDR + 1080p video recording)
  • SoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 with Adreno 320
  • Memory: 8GB/16GB internal storage with microSD support, 2GB RAM
  • OS: Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with unlocked bootloader
  • Battery: 2,600mAh battery

HTC One with Nexus user experience

HTC One Google Edition
As soon as the Galaxy S4 Google Edition was officially announced, people began speculating that the flagship HTC One could be given the exact same treatment, too. And then it was. Now it belongs to this list of the best phones running stock Android, and we’re not complaining.

The HTC One Google Edition benefits from the award-winning design and innovations found in the standard model, while also taking full advantage of the Google Nexus experience. You really can’t go wrong with it, unless your aim is to not spend so much on your next phone. In which case, you might want to check up on alternatives, because it’s also priced higher than five Benjamins like its Samsung counterpart.

HTC One Google Edition Specs

  • Display: 4.7-inch Super LCD3, Full HD (1920×1080 pixels), 469 ppi
  • Camera: 4MP Ultrapixel camera with auto-focus and LED flash (1080p video recording @ 30fps)
  • SoC: 1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 and Adreno 320 GPU
  • Memory: 32GB/64GB internal storage (no microSD support), 2GB RAM
  • OS: Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
  • Battery: 2,300mAh battery (non-removable)

Sony Xperia Z with Nexus user experience

We know, Sony still hasn’t officially announced such a phone yet. But we believe that it’s no longer a question of if, but when. We know that Sony is capable of delivering such a phone — it created the Xperia Z AOSP back in April. So we’re really counting on an official Xperia Z Google Edition release very soon.

In case you need a refresher on what kind of phone a Nexus-ified version of the Xperia Z will be, remember that the standard model comes with a Full HD 5-inch display, a fast and powerful quad-core CPU, and a 13.1-megapixel HDR-capable camera — all of which is packed into a casing that’s both dust tight and waterproof up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes.

Are people getting frustrated that the official Google Edition Xperia Z still hasn’t been outed by Sony yet? You bet. But at least we all know it will be worth the wait.

Xperia Z Google Edition Specs

  • Display: 5-inch TFT, Full HD (1920×1080 pixels), 441 ppi
  • Camera: 13.1MP auto-focus camera with LED flash (HDR, 1080p video, sweep panorama)
  • SoC: 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600, Adreno 320 GPU
  • Memory: 16GB internal storage + microSD (up to 64GB), 2GB RAM
  • OS: Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, upgradeable to Android 4.2
  • Battery: 2,330mAh battery (non-removable), 40 hrs. music, 11 hrs. talk

Coolpad 8920

Coolpad 8920
The Coolpad 8920 first caught our attention at CTIA 2013. Based on what we know about it so far, it delivers a slightly more premium feel than Coolpad’s own Quattro series of phones. It stands out among many of today’s lesser known China-based smartphone models because it has a full 5-inch HD screen and it uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Pro. It’s worth a look if you plan on using a smartphone in China, or you’re already with either China Unicom or China Mobile.

Coolpad 8920 Specs

  • Display: 5-inch HD (1280×720 pixels) display
  • Camera: 8-megapixel rear camera
  • SoC: 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro
  • Memory: 16GB internal storage + microSD (up to 64GB), 1GB RAM
  • OS: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
  • Battery: 3,000mAh battery (removable)

Archos 35 Carbon / 50 Platinum / 53 Platinum

Archos 53 Platinum
Archos is one brand that we don’t mention enough around here. It may not be among the top Android handset makers in the world right now, but one thing we know for sure is that whenever we take at its latest creations, we end up admitting that they aren’t that bad at all. Case in point: its latest Carbon and Platinum series phones. Archos made three new Google-certified phones to try and meet the needs of not just the entry-level segment but the high-end segment as well.

The Carbon 35 is Archos’ weapon of choice for the entry-level. It has very basic features and a very affordable price tag. Again what truly sets it apart from many of today’s other new entry-level phones is the fact that it comes with the stock Android OS — albeit one version late.

And as for the Archos Platinum handsets, their purpose is to hit phablet makers like Samsung where it hurts: price-wise. Both the Archos 50 Platinum and Archos 53 Platinum come with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and they’re sure to excite those who want phone screens to be as big as possible.

Archos 35 Carbon Specs

  • Display: 3.5-inch HVGA (320×480 pixels) IPS display
  • Camera: Dual VGA cameras (front and back)
  • SoC: 1GHz Qualcomm 7225A CPU
  • Memory: 4GB internal storage + microSD (up to 32GB), 512MB RAM
  • OS: Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Battery: 1,300mAh battery (removable)

Archos 50 Platinum Specs

  • Display: 5-inch qHD (540×960 pixels) IPS display, 220 dpi
  • Camera: 8-megapixel AF camera with LED flash and BSI sensor (720p HD video recording)
  • SoC: 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm 8225Q Cortex-A5
  • Memory: 4GB internal storage + microSD (up to 64GB), 1GB RAM
  • OS: Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean
  • Battery: 2,000mAh battery

Archos 53 Platinum Specs

  • Display: 5.3-inch qHD (540×960 pixels) IPS display
  • Camera: 8-megapixel AF camera with LED flash and BSI sensor (720p HD video recording)
  • SoC: 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm 8225Q Cortex-A5
  • Memory: 4GB internal storage + microSD (up to 64GB), 1GB RAM
  • OS: Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean
  • Battery: 2,800mAh battery

BLU Vivo 4.3

BLU Vivo 4.3 smartphone
The BLU Vivo 4.3 smartphone received its long-awaited Android 4.1 Jelly Bean update a couple of months ago, and this only cemented its status as one of the best Android phones that you’ve (possibly) never heard of. It has pretty modest specs compared with the others listed on this page, but due to its use of the stock Android OS, it’s worth more than just a cursory look.

Apart from the software, the BLU Vivo 4.3 is also noteworthy for the fact that it’s available in a total of four different color variants. Of course, in a world where the use of third-party cases has become the norm, this won’t matter much to some people. But for those who still believe in colors and whatever they’re supposed to be representing, this easily puts the choice — no, the power — right into your hands.

Vivo 4.3 Specs

  • Display: 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus WVGA (480×800 pixels) display
  • Camera: 8-megapixel rear camera
  • SoC: 1GHz MediaTek MT6577 processor
  • Memory: 4GB internal storage + microSD, 1GB RAM
  • OS: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
  • Battery: 1,600mAh battery

HTC First

HTC First
While certainly not an Android-powerhouse, the HTC First is still worthy of your attention because of the software that it comes with. And no, we’re not referring to Facebook Home. We’re talking about the fact that the HTC First, after a few minor adjustments, can be made to run a virtually untouched version of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. And even in a 4.3-inch phone, that’s something.

The problem with the HTC First is that you may soon find it very difficult to find it, much less buy one for yourself. Facebook has already pulled the plug on it and cancelled all UK pre-orders, plus the public’s reception of the handset has generally been very chilly. So if you’ve been putting off the decision to buy one now, you may soon regret it. Especially since the price has has already been cut down from $99 to only a single cent on contract.

HTC First Specs

  • Display: 4.3-inch HD (1280×720 pixels), 342 ppi
  • Camera: 5-megapixel rear camera with 1080p video recording
  • SoC: 1.4GHz dual-core Snapdragon 400, Adreno 305 GPU
  • Memory: 1GB RAM
  • OS: Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean
  • Battery: 2,000mAh battery, 14 hours talk time

Sprint ZTE Vital

Sprint Vital
Announced earlier this week, the Sprint Vital joins the ranks of literally dozens of other new handsets that seem to be getting announced every single day. What makes it different from the rest is that it uses Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean in a way that “keeps the Android experience closer to the way it was intended,” according to Sprint. If the real Android experience is what you’re after, this can only be a good thing.

The OEM behind the Sprint Vital is none other than China-based ZTE. It has had ample experience making impressive 5-inch handsets in the past, so things are looking good for this particular model.

Sprint Vital Specs

  • Display: 5-inch HD (1280×720 pixels) display
  • Camera: 13-megapixel rear camera, 1-megapixel front-facing camera
  • SoC: 1.5GHz dual-core CPU
  • Memory: 8GB internal storage + microSD (up to 64GB), 1GB RAM
  • OS: Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean
  • Battery: 2,500mAh battery, 15 hours talk time

Make yourself heard

Vote in our poll or tell us in the comments if we missed any good stock Android phone.

[poll id=”314″]

  • Harjifangki

    No Galaxy Nexus? Aw :'(

    • Sergio Gutierrez

      Galaxy Nexus is an epic smartphone, Nexus 4 specs aren’t worth upgrading from imo. I’m Waiting for the next iteration.

      • Zach Armstrong

        Same thing here also waiting for my contract to end so I can leave Verizon

        • HitokiriX

          I stayed with them even after my contract expired cause I use a lot of data. I’m at 7GB usage right now with 5 days left in my cycle. Sprint and T-Mobile aren’t great where I am right now so making the switch would be tough.

          • Zach Armstrong

            If you have unlimited data then by all means stay with them I don’t have unlimited and I really want a Nexus which they won’t never get again till they drop CDMA Looking at a AT&T prepaid reseller seeing how T-mobile has bad coverage where I live

    • joser116

      Nexus 4 provides a lot better specs at a lower price than what the Galaxy Nexus started with.

  • AirieFenix

    Yeah, the Xperia Z Google Edition is not currently available, you know?

    • LAKAME

      Quote from the article: “We know, Sony still hasn’t officially announced such a phone yet.”
      So yes, they do know.

  • George Av

    Samsung Nexus 4 is the best! :P (SGS4NEXUS)
    Best Camera
    Best CPU
    Best screen
    Best storage options
    Best Audio chip
    worst build :P

    • LAKAME

      We have no Samsung Nexus 4. It’s LG.

      • George Av

        Well, we do, SAMSUNG GALAXY S “4” so why don’t we just call it the SAMSUNG GALAXY NEXUS 4?

        • OMGgary

          I think probably the most logical reason is because nobody, apart from yourself, has expressed any desire to call it by that name.
          “We” normally assumes the involvement of more than one participant, unless of course you are (A) a monarch or (B) the Pope, in which case I humbly beg your pardon (A) your Majesty or (B) your Holiness.

          • King pope god in space

            We wish this comment was funny

        • Lisandro O Oocks

          if you want to call it that, then call it SAMSUNG GALAXY NEXUS 2, for it would be the second one with that name, or call it 5, cause technically the it’s about 5 inch screen.

          • Sypher

            It can’t be called nexus period

        • Sypher

          It can’t be called nexus becauseiI its not and it will never be.. Nexus is a brand and so is galaxy

    • joser116

      Does not have best camera, does not have best CPU, does not have best screen, does not have best storage options, does not have best audio chip, worst build, but best at the best price.

      • George Av

        DOES have the best Camera. You’d be stupid to argue, DOES have the best CPU, DOES have the best storage options – aka micro SD card (duh) DOES have the best audio chip – wolfson DAC So get your facts right mate.

        • joser116

          There has been a misunderstanding. You said Samsung Nexus 4, so naturally I thought you were talking about the LG Nexus 4. Now that I see that you have updated your comment, I see that you are talking about the Galaxy S4 Google Edition. In that case you are correct.

          • George Av

            Well, then sorry :P, but the fact is that you CAN call the Samsung Galaxy S4 google edition the Samsung galaxy nexus 4 :P

          • joser116

            I don’t think that’s a good name. As you can see, it has confused a considerable amount of people; they thought that you were talking about LG Nexus 4 and that you made an error when saying Samsung Nexus 4(which I believe is the cause of the downvotes). When I first saw your comment and replied, it just said “Samsung Nexus 4”. Samsung Galaxy S4 Nexus sounds like a much better name. And yes, you CAN call the Samsung Galaxy S4 google editon the Samsung galaxy nexus 4, but only because it is your opinion.

          • Sypher

            No you can’t.. It’s Google edition and it can’t be called nexus.

          • Sypher

            Nope he is not.. There is no such thing as Samsung galaxy nexus 4..its Google edition not nexus.

          • joser116

            I know that. What I meant at the end is that he can call it whatever he wants to call it, we can’t force him to call it anything. If he wants to call it Samsung galaxy nexus 4, he can. That is what I meant; hence, I said at the end “but only because it is your opinion”. There is no such thing as Samsung galaxy nexus 4, but he can call it whatever he wants.

  • MSmith79

    Think it’s worth mentioning that the Galaxy S4 and HTC One have different non-standard button configurations that don’t quite conform to the true stock experience. I’d be getting one of them if it wasn’t for that. Considering the Sony as an alternative if/when it comes out.

    • HitokiriX

      What will be different?

      • MSmith79

        The Sony has the software buttons like Nexus phones. Gives me a dedicated app-switcher button (which I use nearly every time I pick up my phone) and future proofs me so that if Android 5.0 comes out with a new button configuration, I know my phone will support it…unlike with the S4 or the One

        • HitokiriX

          Thanks. I didn’t realize that at all.

  • yimatong

    tinyurl.com/l3cselt sdfgsdf

  • bananatroll

    And Verizon being the nexus haters that they are, wants nothing to do with any of them. Let’s see how much bloat we can force into our next series of Verizon wireless ad filled phones next!!!

  • Jaun Lombard

    If Sony do launch the Google edition I think the best androids will be Samsung, HTC and Sony! All three have almost the same spec! You will choose the HTC because of the design and sound, choose the S4 because of the dimensions, AMOLED and bragging rights to the most powerful Stock android phone, choose Sony for the brand name and party trick!

    I’ll go with Samsung S4 because customer care will be top notch, but without the Touchwiz stuff, I might even choose the HTC

    Plus I would just like to point out the fact that a lot of people will choose S4 stock android over the HTC…but the same people will choose the normal HTC over the normal S4…why?

    • Infinite7154

      The stock S4 will come with a removable battery as well as an sd card slot. The stock HTC is a neutered HTC One with “only” 16 gb of internal storage and a non-removable battery. These two things are what most people cried about with the N4

  • Monica de la Torre

    Nice devices! more specs here http://allawesomeandroid.blogspot.com/

  • Ivan Myring

    The Xperia z is an S4 Pro not snapdragon 600

    • Varun Bansal

      Rumors:- nexus edition SXZ will have Snapdragon 600 CPU !!

      • Ivan Myring

        Doubt they would upgrade the hardware.

    • Babylonbwoy

      Was wondering where they got this info ? Anyway, it’s already too late for an Xperia Z GE, Honami will be announced sept 4 and released before end of year…

  • Babylonbwoy

    Where the S600 SoC for Xperia Z GE comes from ? Sources ?